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Savings in IRAs total more than $6.5 trillion worth of American wealth, and 401(k)s and other defined-contribution plans account for another $5 trillion. Where that money goes upon the deaths of its owners depends on their beneficiary designations.

But the problem with beneficiary designations is they become outdated. If you don’t update your information, your money could end up with a former spouse, or tied up in probate because it was left to a parent who died before you. It may have been decades since you named your beneficiaries, and a lot can change during a long stretch of time.

It’s important to review beneficiary designations every year or two, or whenever you experience a major life change, like a divorce. Make sure they match with your will’s instructions. You can make updates online, and you can name contingent beneficiaries in case your primary beneficiaries are gone before you. Your spouse is the beneficiary unless they waive that right.

If you have a pension from a past or present employer, there are other estate-planning considerations that apply.

Pensions can be taken as a lump sum and rolled over into an IRA, or in monthly payments, which can be a joint-and-survivor annuity or single-life annuity. The former covers your spouse if you die first, the latter stops paying upon your death.

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